By admin | February 19, 2008
Is domination a bad thing?
By Richard Allen
Super Bowl XLII was the highest rated Super Bowl since 1998. It never hurts television viewership to have a New York team playing a Boston team in a big game. However, there was more to it than that. The fact that the New England Patriots were 18-0 coming into the game and were going for their 4th championship victory in seven years no doubt influenced fans and non fans alike.
Without doubt, many people watched to see if the Patriots could make history while others wanted to see the NFLâ€™s most dominate organization go down. Whatever the reason, domination attracts onlookers.
Think of golf in the same manner. More people watch golf today than was the case 10 or 15 years ago. The reason is pretty obvious. There are many people who tune in to either watch Tiger Woods win or lose. So, is domination in sports a bad thing?
NASCAR is in the midst of seeing one team assert itself as the dominate player. Hendrick Motorsports has won seven championships in the elite division since 1995, including the last two by driver Jimmie Johnson.
In 2007, cars owned by Rick Hendrick won 18 of the 36 races. Johnson ran off a streak of 4 consecutive wins at the end of the season to secure his second title. As a matter of fact, 12 of the final 13 races were won by drivers from either Hendrick Motorsports or Roush-Fenway Racing with Johnson and teammate Jeff Gordon accounting for eight of those victories.
As the new season dawns, it appears as though NASCARâ€™s super team has only gotten stronger. HMS added driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr to its stable over the winter and he immediately earned his keep by winning this past Saturdayâ€™s Bud Shootout in Daytona. Then, on Sunday Jimmie Johnson picked up right where he left off by taking the pole position for the 50th running of the Daytona 500.
For sure, domination has helped improve television ratings and overall interest in the NFL and professional golf. However, where does the point come in which fans simply give in to the finality of it all? There must be a moment in which NFL fans realize that one team is going to win and watching to see otherwise is fool hearty. After a while it becomes a certainty that Tiger Woods will be hoisting another trophy at the end of the day.
Has that point been reached in NASCAR? Are ratings slipping because fans have decided they will watch the highlights of another Johnson or Gordon win on SportsCenter rather than sit in front of a television on a nice day only to have the inevitable occur yet again?
The wildcard in this equation may be the previously mentioned Earnhardt. The sportâ€™s most popular driver now driving for the sportâ€™s most successful team might just be the thing to draw fans back. Perhaps domination will not be such a bad thing when one of the drivers doing all the winning happens to be the favorite of the vast majority of fans.
Another potential wildcard could be the emergence of other teams to challenge mighty team Hendrick. At the end of last season Roush-Fenway Racing seemed to be gaining momentum. Perhaps they are ready to put the Ford brand back in front of the pack on a regular basis.
Also, Joe Gibbs Racing, with a strong driver line up, has the potential to make a serious move. The teamâ€™s switch to Toyota will allow them all the resources they will need to win races.
So, is domination a bad thing? Only time will tell but this season offers the potential to create more interest than has been the case over recent years.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association.
His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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